The sustainability of Australia's livestock industries balances upon their profitability and their freedom to farm. Underpinning both are good outcomes for animal health on-farm and throughout the supply chain.
Animal health is a complex system, with success relying on livestock producers working together with vets, industry councils and governments, to detect and manage livestock diseases in the national herd. While there are varying approaches to any number of challenges facing the industry nationwide, diseases do not respect state borders and many do not discriminate between species and breeds. As such, a national approach to animal health is vitally important.
As an independent co-ordinator, Animal Health Australia (AHA) is privileged to play a part in strengthening and protecting the national animal health system. This helps to ensure delivery of a world-class system for the management of livestock biosecurity risks, which helps Australia maintain freedom from many destructive livestock diseases, improves industry productivity, sustainability and enhances market access.
AHA works with its members, including Australian Dairy Farmers, to maintain Australia's guiding document for responding to an emergency animal disease, known as the EADRA (Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement), as well as manuals for detecting, diagnosing and managing a range of these emergency conditions, known as AusVetPlan.
EADRA sets out the policies and procedures to be followed when dealing with an emergency disease outbreak. It also spells out the arrangements for sharing the costs of a response between federal and state governments and livestock industry reserves, where appropriate, to ensure that all affected parties shoulder the burden of control and eradication measures.
Maintaining EADRA means ensuring it fulfils its purpose. Through regular simulation exercises, opportunities are provided for government and industry staff to train and prepare to take part in a response when needed.
Emergency disease preparedness is also supported by a range of programs that conduct surveillance for signs of exotic diseases and pests and help to underpin Australia's claims of freedom from certain major diseases.
Of course, it's not just exotic diseases which threaten the integrity of the system; many livestock diseases are endemic to Australia, having come with historical shipments of livestock. Some of these conditions are 'facts of life' to be managed and treated as you might nurse a common cold, while others can create big problems for the producer if introduced to their herd.
Whether through the death of infected animals, loss of condition or impact on milk production, or wastage at the processing plant, endemic diseases cost the livestock sector millions of dollars a year. To help producers manage the risks and impacts of endemic diseases, AHA co-ordinates a range of programs designed to monitor for instances of endemic diseases, build awareness of the risks and promote the adoption of on-farm biosecurity practices to help minimise the introduction and further spread of endemic diseases on individual properties.
Among the most significant of these programs is the Farm Biosecurity program, run in conjunction with counterparts at Plant Health Australia. The Farm Biosecurity website www.farmbiosecurity.com.au provides a range of tools and resources for producers to implement on-farm biosecurity practices, filtered into six broad 'biosecurity essentials', which apply to any given farming operation.
Biosecurity, food safety and traceability in the dairy industry benefit further from representation in a range of projects, such as the National Johne's Disease Project, which assists livestock industry members in developing a national, cross-sector consensus on issues which affect a number of industries.
AHA is proud to work alongside members such as Australian Dairy Farmers to help build a robust and resilient animal health system, contributing to strong and sustainable livestock industries for the benefit of livestock farmers.